Developing Oracy Skills: Speaking and Listening within the Classroom

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Developing Oracy Skills: Speaking and Listening within the Classroom

Setting Ground Rules:

Confidence in speaking and listening for purpose is vitally important in the development of these life skills. Setting ground rules that ensure the physical and emotional security of each student, where the students are consulted in the devising of these rules, will go a long way in establishing an environment of productive engagement in speaking and listening for purpose.

In order to support the development of group ground rules, the students and teacher might consider the following prompts:

  • What is a good listener? What does good listening look and sound like?

  • What is a good speaker? What does good speaking look and sound like?

  • What makes a partnership work best?

  • How do I work best within a group?

  • How should we share our information, so that everyone benefits?

  • What are the roles within the group (chairperson, mentor, recorder, observer, time-keeper, questioner, etc.)? Who will undertake each role? How will these roles be rotated?

Personal ground rules might include:

  • Speak clearly (aim for the furthest point in the room)

  • Interact with and involve your audience

  • Use gesture but do not fidget

  • Try to ensure that everyone can see you

  • Emphasise the most important points you wish to convey, vocally, physically, etc.

  • Listen to others with respect

  • Ask a question if you do not understand

Why Warm Ups?

Team-building activities can help to develop a sense of classroom unity and community

New members can integrate with the class

Warm up activities can decrease stress and build confidence in listening and speaking, through game-playing

All learning styles / abilities can be utilised in warm up activities – visual, aural, kinaesthetic

Warm up activities can energize and focus a group

Higher level thinking and critical skills may be stimulated through game and metaphor

Ice Breakers / Quick Warm Ups

Review Questions post-activity:

  • What worked well? What did not work well?

  • How did it feel to be in the role assigned?

  • What important skills were needed for everyone to carry out the task successfully? (listening, sharing of ideas, planning, asking and answering questions, negotiation, justification, taking turns, use of specific language, logical / critical / lateral thinking, clarification, etc.)

  • What are the important learning points to take forward?

  1. Group Memory

Purpose: To test communication, organisation, establish clear roles

  1. Divide the class into teams consisting of three or more students. Each team has access to an area of the room, where resource materials (paper, markers, etc.) have been provided

  2. Attach a picture, photograph, map, graph, poem, etc. to a flipchart. (If using a piece of text, try to use a text with a pattern or sequence which will make it easier for students to remember)

  3. The whole class looks at the object for one minute

  4. The flipchart is then turned away from the class and the students are told to recreate a perfect copy

  5. Each team member may only make three visits to view the object, each visit lasting no more than 25 seconds. No drawing / recording instruments may be taken to the viewing area

  6. When the time is up, the activity is reviewed and the skills required to carry it out successfully are discussed.

  1. Chinese Whispers

Purpose: To listen and speak carefully, to convey clearly stated messages

  1. Get at least five people, preferable 10 plus people. The more people involved, the better, because the message being passed around is likely to become distorted and even funnier.

  2. Write a few messages down on paper that consist of at least ten words. The message can be serious or downright silly. Be sure it is legible.

  3. Sit the players down on the floor in a circle or a line. This can be played in teams or as a whole group.

  4. Give the first player the message note. Have that person whisper the message into the ear of the next person. They cannot pass on or show the message; that must go back to the organiser / monitor. The message must be repeated quickly from person to person. No one else must hear.

  5. The last person reveals aloud what he / she heard to the group.

  6. The activity is reviewed with the group.

  1. Birthdays / Oldest, Middle, Youngest / Tall to Small

Purpose: to see how quickly students can process data and arrange themselves in a particular order

  1. Ask the students to line up according to birth date (year or month or day in the month) / position in the family / height (e.g. shorter people at the front of the line and taller people at the back).

  2. Students are allowed to ask each other questions in order to establish their position in the line.

  3. Review the activity with the group.

  1. Warm Up Charts

Purpose: To assist students in getting to know more about the members of their group and foster individual / group identity and unity

  1. Divide the class into groups of three

  2. Ask the group to record information about themselves on the chart (the suggestions below are not prescriptive)


Team Member

Team Member

Place where you were born

Country you would like to visit

Favourite holiday spot

Favourite ice cream flavour

Best school memory

Favourite time of the day

Favourite recreational activity

Your hero/heroine

A special friend

Favourite food

How are you all alike?

  1. Scavenger Hunt (Jill Spencer)

Purpose: To access student prior knowledge, introduce new concepts / vocabulary

  1. Each student receives an index card. On one side is the piece of information specific to themselves.

  2. Teacher calls out the instruction: ‘Find someone who…’

…can explain the difference between…

…can tell you…

…can name…

…can show you…

…can share….

  1. Students move around the room, on the instructions of the teacher, questioning and informing each other until everyone has built on the information they know and filled in the gaps, using the information on each other’s index cards.

Four Corners / Take a Stand (Spencer Kagan (

Purpose: It can be used as a pre-assessment, a discussion starter, to deepen understanding of a topic, or discover mis-conceptions, a formative assessment.

  1. Students are asked to move to a corner of the room whose label best matches their opinion, their knowledge level, their skill level, or represents something they like. (Corners may be labelled in relation to learning outcomes).

  2. Once there, each corner group is given a specific task, and must work together to accomplish it. (e.g. ‘I understand and can utilise volcanic terminology’ – group task is to create a visual display of key terms relating to volcanoes). Alternatively, each corner group must could work together to justify their position in that corner of the room.

  3. Each corner group presents the results of their specific task / justifications to the rest of the class.

  4. Review process will consider all four corners of the room, so that students will be able to discuss and identify areas that may require further investigation.

I see, I think, I wonder…

Purpose: to stimulate and share creative ideas and opinions around visual aids, asking and answering of questions, listening to others, hear and use specific descriptive language.

  1. In pairs / groups, students study an illustration (painting, photograph, cartoon, diagram, map, etc.) or object, without speaking, for one minute.

  2. Each member of the team makes three statements about the visual aid, describing what they see, what their opinion of it is, and one question they would like to ask about it.

  3. These statements are shared with, and discussed with, the rest of the team / partnership, and recorded on paper.

  4. The team / partnership decide on a group statement about what they see, think and wonder about the visual aid. This is shared with the rest of the class.

  5. The activity is reviewed and all recorded work is collected and noted.


Purpose: To gather ideas, share prior knowledge, formulate a plan, develop teamwork strategies, listening and speaking skills.

  1. In teams, students will think about the requirements and goals of the task and record all their ideas (wish list). Mind maps may be a useful tool here.

  2. Students will then think about the task from a number of key perspectives, which may generate further ideas.

  3. Students may categorise their ideas into three main areas: easy ideas, tough ideas, and crazy ideas.

  4. These ideas will be evaluated and refined, in the light of roadblocks – i.e. resources, capabilities, the limitations of the task, etc.

  5. The team will continue to ask questions around the task, exploring every avenue.

  6. The team will review, and decide on, the key features of the task, as a result of the brainstorming process.

Just Like Me

Purpose: To develop group unity, listening and speaking skills, share ideas, distinguish areas of strength and areas that might need more input

  1. Arrange the whole class in a circle, if possible.

  2. Teacher models the activity by saying…’Just like me, who…finish the sentence with a statement such as ‘likes to kayak’ or ‘loves rugby’ or ‘hates chocolate’?

  3. Everyone who fits that category stands up.

  4. Encourage others to start the prompt.

  5. As students become more familiar with the activity, they can incorporate content ideas / topics for discussion into the activity, e.g. ‘Just like me, who needs to read more about volcanoes…is good at clay modelling…still doesn’t understand the theory of plate tectonics?’

  6. Class review after the activity can help to identify key areas that may need more work.

True / False Statements (similar to myths and realities activity done in Literacy Link Seminars)


Purpose: To support team problem-solving, while keeping in mind that alternatives are possible; sharing of, and listening to, other ideas, group discussion, negotiation, activating prior knowledge

T – Talk about the problem

H – How might the problem be solved?

I – Identify a strategy that might work in solving the problem

N – Note how the strategy is working / issues that may arise

K – Keep thinking? What might we be doing wrong? Might there be a better way of doing this?

Read and Explain Pairs

Purpose: To support students in active reading, comprehension, reflection and explanation, where students work as cooperative partners.

  1. Divide material into sections/paragraphs suited to class-group.

  2. Students form pairs A and B, and both read a section of the material.

  3. Students assign roles: A is SUMMARISER, whose job is to turn page down and summarise the contents of the paragraph in one's own words. B is CHECKER, whose job is to listen carefully and correct any mis-statements and add in anything omitted.

  4. Both read next section.

  5. Reverse roles.

  6. Continue until all the material is read and the general meaning agreed and understood by the pair.

  7. The teacher ensures individual accountability by randomly asking students to summarise what they have read so far. The teacher reminds students that there is intergroup cooperation (whenever it is helpful they may check procedures, answers, and strategies with another group or compare answers with those of another group if they finish early).


Purpose: To develop an understanding of context, situation, social interaction, body language and facial expression as a method of, and an aid to, communication.

  1. Students work in pairs / groups to create emotional expression, using facial expression, gesture and body language.

  2. Each pair / group will take on a number of key character roles and explore the development of the character, using appropriate expression and gesture. Students will be encouraged to think beyond obvious character traits and to utilise information from textbooks about their chosen characters.

  3. In their groups, the students will improvise short social scenes, built around their chosen characters, which will reflect character development and decisions.

  4. (Use of the ‘Freeze’ technique may be useful in creating a ‘still scene’ / focus the group).

  5. Other members of the group will act as evaluators and supporters of the students ‘in character’.

Role Play / Monologue / Dialogue

Purpose: To encourage engagement in discussion and active listening about a particular issue, to share information and experiences, foster participation and develop empathy.

  1. The scenario should be relevant and realistic, provide adequate information to give students a comfort zone when acting out their roles and build up confidence by using group simulations before they are asked to carry out individual role plays or monologues.

  2. Students can work individually to create a monologue (one-sided conversation, talk), in pairs to create dialogue, or in groups of three or more for more extended scenes.

  3. Role play allows students to invent relationships between people and to re-create events from a number of perspectives (e.g. create a café scene to develop language / mathematical skills, re-enact a scene from history, tell a story from many points of view, etc.)

  4. The students try to imagine how each person feels, walks, talks, acts and they act out what they think is happening and what might happen next.

  5. Other class members can then question them in role.

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